James 'Crash' Ryan: Inventor of the 'Black Box'

Professor James J. Ryan II was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1903.  In a most literal sense, Professor James Ryan earned his nickname. A professor in the University of Minnesota’s mechanical engineering department from 1931 to 1963, Ryan not only crafted safety features for cars (e.g. retractable seat belts, hydraulic bumper) but also crash tested them himself -- this before "crash dummies."

Ryan, who worked as a Westinghouse engineer before joining the university faculty, is perhaps best known for inventing the black box (the flight data recorder) used on airplanes.  

His parents: John Francis Ryan (born 1864 in Aughnaglear, County Carlow) and Ellen Smith (born 1864 in Mullaghbawn, County Armagh) both immigrated to and died in Columbus, Ohio.

His grandparents:  Pierce Ryan (born 1825 in Aughnaglear, County Carlow) and Elizabeth Coady (born 1825 in Ballycrinnegan, County Carlow).

His great-grandparents: Ned Ryan (born circa 1800 in Aughnaglear) and Catherine Watson (born circa 1800 in Aughnaglear). 

Left Image: Professor James Ryan is strapped into a car seat just prior to undergoing one of his own crash tests

Right Image: Professor James Ryan wearing an America football helmet while subjecting himself to a crash test

Dee Notaro is an amateur genealogist based in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.).  Her own ancestral background is made up of a mixture of cultures, including her Irish forebears who hailed from County Sligo.  Dee teaches classes on genealogical research and is passionate about helping others find answers to their ancestry questions.  You can read other articles by Dee in our "Irish Ancestry" members' group.

Views: 2315

Tags: Ancestry, Armagh, Carlow, Genealogy, United States

Comment by Neil F. Cosgrove on August 13, 2014 at 9:17am

What a great article (left me wanting more).  It is often easy to identify great Irish contributions in the Arts and Military, but the contributions of the Irish in Science and Engineering are often over shadowed.  Thanks for posting this.


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